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The Solstice and the Stowaway – PART 2

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(cont’d from Part 1) . . .

The next morning I took a second test and then crept back to bed.  Randy rolled over and hugged me more tightly than usual.  He opened his eyes to look at me and I could see the fresh perspective on his face – he was a quite different man than the night before.

“I’m happy.” He said simply.  We laid in bed a while whispering all our thoughts and fears and joys.  We decided to tell my mom and dad as soon as we found a quiet moment.

We told my parents the brand new news a few hours before the family Christmas party in between setting out platters of food and restocking the beer.  “This means that next Christmas we’re gonna have a baby around!” said my mother as tears lit up her blue eyes.  As my family gathered for the party I know I must have been glowing the way they say that pregnant ladies do.  I lingered in hugs, looked everyone in the eyes, listened deeply and enjoyed this rare evening with the joyful secret of my little stowaway.

The day before we made the journey to Buffalo a sad thing happened.  My grandfather – Edward Otto Zindle Sr passed away.  He was my last remaining grandparent and I always felt that in him was the seed of my musical ability.  He was an entertainer – never publicly or professionally, just naturally – and he was always singing and telling jokes and stories with his harmonica to accompany him.  Since my grandmother passed away a few years ago he just hasn’t been the same and his health had been on a slow spiral downward.  There was always a certain weariness about him, even underneath the jokes, but a shadow had overtaken him in the last few years and he didn’t seem to want to shake it anymore.

My family is rather complicated and remarkably smaller than when I was a child.  The last few Christmases have been the first in history that the Zindles didn’t gather to sing, eat and laugh.  This was a great loss for me as I always treasured those family gatherings.  My grandmother was a feisty Irish mother of nine children.  She always joked that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she loved music and she was an instigator.  She loved our traditional sing-along as much as I did, which is no surprise because her children all sang so beautifully, in layers of harmony.  They would call out song requests, laughing at the lyrics somebody messed up, hamming up the “5th day of Christmas”, braving the high notes in “O Holy Night”, and adding every silly quip to Rudolph’s story.   Grandpa could pick out any tune by ear and he would echo the melody on his harmonica. The Zindle family voices are so earthy and sweet – the sound of them harmonizing together is like no other sound I’ve heard.  For me, it’s the vibrating resonant sound of home.  This is where I learned the communion of music – to harmonize, perform and laugh in an environment of love.  This only ever happened once a year and it has been years since the last time.  But this year because of my grandfather’s passing, the family decided to set aside their busy lives and petty quarrels to cross the distance and gather together once again.

“Harmony – it’s not about what’s lasting or permanent.  It’s about individual voices coming together for a moment.  And that moment lasts the length of a breath.” (From ‘House of Cards”)

I was so grateful to spend the first few days of knowing in Buffalo soaking in the love and music of my family.  I was trying to take it in slowly – to not allow my life to flash before my eyes in a dizzying vertigo.  No Christmas gift I could receive could compare to this precious treasure I had been given, this news that would change everything.  All my bells were ringing.

Later, to tell the story in a much simpler way, I wrote a song for my baby called “Carry You Along”.

Check out my recent post where I shared the song via video.

The Big News

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They say it’s natural for pregnant women to turn inward: to begin nurturing and nesting with every waking thought and moment.  Who am I to blow against the wind?  You haven’t heard a lot from me in the last few months because everything I write lately revolves around the biggest thing on my mind and I wasn’t ready to share it with the world until now.

I’m excited to finally announce today that I am just about 20 weeks pregnant!  (Yes I know it’s April Fools Day, but there have to be some real announcements on April 1st to perpetuate the tradition, and today happens to be the best day for us to announce it.)

Randall and I found out just before Christmas and have been adjusting our lives and our minds to the idea as we’ve shared the good news with close friends and family over the last few months.  For musicians who make their living by touring pregnancy is not always exciting news, but we couldn’t be more thrilled.  And we don’t plan to stop touring.  We will welcome this little baby into our world, making room and making time to accommodate him or her however we need to.  We also don’t plan to find out if it will be HIM or HER until we meet face to face!  The baby is due on August 20th – I’m just about halfway there!

There is a season for everything and I distantly recall my own restless, ambitious seasons of work and worry.  This is a new season and the edges of my ambition are dulled by a new and steady peace.  It feels a bit like passing through a cloud, not for the lack of vision but for the mystery of feeling surrounded by a presence, as if angels are attending me.  My womb and my heart expand to make room for a new love – a new way of loving.  “There will be time” said TS Elliot “to prepare a face to meet the faces you will meet”  There is a brand new face, not yet seen by this world in all of time and history, that I was lucky enough to catch the first fleeting glimpse of, and this new person will be entrusted to my care.

Baby's First Photo Shoot!

Baby’s First Photo Shoot!

I plan to blog more regularly now that the door is open to share what my life is like touring with a baby on the way.  I wrote a new song which I will be sharing soon as well.

“Get In” (on an island) Video Blog #2

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Part 2 of my video blog series, featuring the song “Get In” from The Ragbirds “Finally Almost Ready”.  Filmed on Beaver Island on an airplane hangar, accompanied by TJ Zindle on guitar and and Loren Kranz on bongos.

Lyrics:

The heart is an island in an ocean of blood – Plays a lonely rhythm on a lonely drum

It lights signal fires, it does a tribal dance – Sees a wave of opportunity, says “this is our only chance!”

Love comes like a tidal wave, comes like the driving rain, like an unexpected guest, like a message on the wind

Love comes like a hurricane, comes like a jet plane with a little man inside saying “Come on, Get in”

The ego’s the king of this island of stone – When it comes to being rescued he’d rather be alone

He cries in his pillow he stomps in his shoes – Till all his limp searching is all he can do –  (boo hoo boo)

Love comes like a tidal wave, comes like the driving rain, like an unexpected guest, like a message on the wind

Love comes like a hurricane, comes like a jet plane with a little man inside saying “Come on!”

Love comes like an earthquake, comes like a brand new day, like an unexpected guest, like a message on the wind

Love comes like a hurricane, comes like a jet plane with a little man inside saying “Come on, Get in”

In My Natural Habitat

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This is me in my natural habitat – the back of our tour van, Cecelia. I am surrounded by flowered hair clips (the eClips that I make to sell at our shows) and these are my garden. I have my own little window to the world where mountains, rivers, trees, factories, graffiti, strangers and billboards pass by like a strange parade. Sometimes I forget that I am the one moving while everything around me stands still. I have books and journals beside me and a mirror in front of me. Whether I read, meditate, describe the scenery, look myself in the eyes or catch my husband smiling at me in the rear-view mirror – this is the place where I practice happiness.

Lyrics to Three New Songs

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Three new songs have taken the stage recently.  These are the lyrics as they are at their moment of birth.  They are all subject to change, however slight or drastic.

Tomorrow River

(I wrote these lyrics for my mother.  The band composed the music, and I wrote the melody and the basic arrangement)

vs 1

Your eyes are the color of a sky full of rain / Your heart’s undercover, always hiding your pain.

You ask nothing from us, except to keep the family close / But you bore three gypsy children with wandering souls

(mama —————————–)

chorus –

Go down, Go down to Tomorrow River / Send your tears off to the sea

Soon we will be all together / Soon you will be here with me

vs 2

Your babies are three jewels in your crown

Their weight and bright value keep your head down

Your husband and the trinity make four strong walls

That hold the roof together every time the sky falls

(mama —————————————)

(chorus)

Bridge –

There is a way a mother bends to take any necessary shape / She gives twice as much as she ever really makes

Fierce as an angel to keep her children safe / She is wild as a bonfire to keep the devil away

(chorus)

(in a round)-

Go down, Go down to Tomorrow River / Soon we will be all together / Soon you will be here with me


Six Wheels

Chorus –

Who’s got sugar? Who’s got spice? Come on, give me the sweetest little sacrifice.

It’s one for the money and two for the show – (three, four,) five boys in the band, six wheels on the road.

vs 1

I try to be lady-like / riding  tight rope on a one wheeled bike.

I’m juggling balls through a ring of fire / and all you can say is “Aim a little higher!”

(Chorus)

vs 2

I try to be pure and clean / riding with the boys in a traveling machine

We roll the dice along the little white lines / that roll beneath us on the road’s long spine

(Chorus)

Bridge –

This road is no place to be walking / This sky is no place to fly

Just put my feet on that holy drum beat and get me rolling high.

Hard Times

vs 1

Mother Nature’s at the battered woman’s shelter / she is waiting for a bed.

I’ve got a fist full of broken strings / how am I supposed to sing?

My pencil is bleeding and my heart is lead.

The milk of time is dripping by the hour / I’m spilling tears and sipping tea

Sitting by the blue fragile light of sleepless enemies on tv

Chorus:

How else are you ever gonna learn to shine / unless you roll with the rocks / let them press and grind?

How else are you ever gonna learn to be smooth / without these hard times to polish you?

vs 2

We talk like two porcupines dancing / the clumsy rhythm of self-defense

Neither of us wants to hurt the other / but we’re both all prickly and sharp at every end.

These days Salvation needs an army and all I’m looking for is peace

To be one tiny beautiful broken part of God’s ever-unfolding mystery.

(chorus)

Bridge –

I’m glad you kept me under your thumb / I learned all my brightest secrets in that dark place.

But I crawled out and gave this voice a microphone / I crawled out and gave this broken heart a stage.

Chorus:

How else are you ever gonna learn to shine / unless you roll with the rocks / let them press and grind?

How else are you ever gonna learn to be smooth / without these hard times to polish you?

2000 Miles Till The Orange Sky Of Home

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(Part 3 of the continuing story of The Ragbirds “Back To School Tour”)

I called this the “Back To School Tour” for many reasons.  I have this need to reinvent myself every September, which was ingrained in me every year of my life in school.  New semester, new grade (new status), new clothes, new courses.  This feeling has never left me, even though I’ve been out of school for as long as I was ever in it.

This tour was the first time The Ragbirds performed without a percussionist.  It was the first long trip that we brought our “merch guy” Evan. (he also played djembe on a few tunes)  We were breaking a lot of new ground – the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming.  I’m a self-help addict – I like to think of it as being a perpetual student of life.  I’m up for adventure and I try to keep a positive spin on everything as I roll with the punches that this touring life brings.  Lessons abound and teachers show up in the strangest places.

It all fell apart in Denver.  At least, another major piece fell off this space ship we’ve been traveling in.  “Houston. . . um, we’ve got a problem”

Dan (our bass player) quit the band.  In the back room at Owsley’s Golden Road.  In the middle of the first leg of a two-part, two-month tour.  In between sound check and show time.  (Which in his defense was one of the only quiet moments we all had together to talk.)

My throat was swelled and inflamed and the crowd at the club was limp – the turn out was embarrassing actually.  Only a fraction of our Denver fans were there because there were three other competing shows in town that same night and we switched to a new venue.

The sound guy was a kind fellow who brought me a triple shot of Maker’s Mark.  I was shaken but my core was still unmoved, my hope still intact.  It’s like the way you do a bodily inventory after a car accident, scanning your vital parts carefully, slowly moving each part to assess the damage.  Alive – no broken bones – a little sore maybe – (that’s going to last a while!).  Now, what to do about this bashed up vehicle?!

A few more Colorado shows followed, with scarce oxygen and breathtaking scenery.  Mojo’s in Columbia, Missouri was an unexpected sweet-spot for a Tuesday night and my voice was beginning to heal.  St. Louis is always the same – family and faithful fans, rainy weather, in and out before we get to see much of the real city.

Terre Haute, Indiana  is always a ridiculous party at the Verve.  The bar owner, Connie took us out for sushi in town and we ate little baby octopuses. (along with a mind-blowing selection of Japanese cuisine!)

It’s easy to get carried away on the energy of The Verve’s crowd especially after a long tour and we all had a night of over-indulgence and riotous fun!  The last two shows, Doc’s in Muncie, IN (a breast-cancer benefit called “Breast Fest”) and The Mousetrap in Indanapolis were all rowdy appreciative crowds, the air thick with smoke and noise.  After Indianapolis we decided to power-drive through the night to make it home.

I woke in the van as we were approaching our hometown of Ann Arbor.  The highway looked so lonely at this hour, the sunrise was just blooming over the gray streets, more orange than the constuction cones which lined the road.  More orange than my weary eyes could absorb – the warmth and light and promise of home.

Part 2 – The Rock & Roll Bed & Breakfast

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The next 1979 miles. ( This is Part 2 in the continuing story of The Ragbirds “Back to School Tour”.)

Cecelia betrayed us in Rapid City South Dakota.  We arrived on the night of October 7th, it was blistering cold and snowing hard.  As if this sudden winter wasn’t bad enough we woke early the next day, bundled up, packed the van and she just wouldn’t start.  Randy looked under the hood, checked the fuses and found that the “Glow Plug” fuse was burned out, so he changed it and it blew out again immediately.  Fortunately we found a diesel repair shop in town but unfortunately they took all day to fix it and we had to cancel our show in Billings, Montana.

Once we were finally rolling again we made our way to Missoula, Montana.  It was homecoming weekend and we were playing (for the first time ever) in a hotel bar, which turned out to not have any rooms available because of the game.  We had to stop our set at 9pm for the marching band to parade through the hall and do a half-hour set in the lobby.  (I’m not even making that up!)  Some kind new friends let us stay at their apartment.

We had a real gig in town the next night at the Top Hat, which was pretty packed.  I was starting to feel sick and spending every spare minute gargling, popping vitamins, taking Echinacea, Apple Cider Vinegar, garlic, elderberry, Airborne, Emergen-C, Colloidal Silver, zinc – everything I could think of that anyone has ever recommended!  Regardless of all my efforts the sinus infection juggernaut that runs me down a few times every year was in full force.

The next day was like a dream.  The mountains were in full regalia, posing for us as we watched amazed through Cecelia’s windows.  We drove into Pray, MT, which held Chico Hot Springs deeply in its bosoms. This hundred year old Inn built around a natural hot spring was postcard worthy – dusted with snow and laced with icicles.  We opened for the fabulous Clumsy Lovers in the Saloon and the show was rowdy fun.

Despite the scenery I crashed in bed with a fever following our set.  The next morning, not sure if it would be good or bad for me, I stripped down to my bathing suit in the winter chill and held the icy railing as I climbed down into the perfect hot spring.  Once in the water all trouble melted away.  Strangers drank beers and martinis in the dream-like haze of rising steam.  It was all a wondrous fog and then a quick dart into the locker room to dry off and bundle up – long johns, legwarmers, gloves, scarf – and back on four wheels driving down the road.

Chico Hot Springs

The Clumsy Lovers liked us so much that they invited us to play with them the next night as well.  It would have been a day off, but we were driving through Billings anyway and since we saw it as a way to make up for the show we canceled, we took the gig.  It was a Monday night at Yellowstone Brewery and the crowd was jam packed and raging.  Randy sat in with the Lovers on djembe.

I was still in rough shape and it lasted for the next 10 days, wrecking my voice and consuming every bit of free time.  But “the show must go on” and this cliche is branded into my skin.  So we drove up, up, up to Laramie, Wyoming and up all the way to Nederland Colorado.

Nederland is a hippie town 8900 feet in the air that has 5 marijuana dispensaries, 6 bars, 1 grocery store, 2 gas stations and 2 police men.  It is populated by artists, drifters  and musicians and it is always full of kindness.  We played at Whistler’s Cafe on a Wednesday night and among the peace-loving crowd there was a stranger – a bald-headed man with a bashed up face.  He carried an aggressive demeanor and he was the worst dancer I’ve ever witnessed – writhing like he was having a seizure.  As the night went on he got uncomfortably closer and closer to the stage.

After our second set, the bar owner (a stocky man with black-rimmed glasses who says he used to be the mayor and calls himself “Mr. Fix It”) told me that Vince Herman wanted to meet me.  He led me outside where Vince (the mandolin player for Leftover Salmon and leader of Great American Taxi) was laughing raucously on the porch.  He was white haired and animated – “I’m the keeper of time here in Nederland and I say tonight is daylight savings time!” (it was Wednesday) He said something about a parade and suddenly we were all following him down the main street, down muddy wooden stairs down to a rickety porch overlooking the water and a skyful of diamond stars.

He led us into a shack and went on and on with stories and jokes.  There were maybe a dozen of us that followed and eventually we let him know we had to go back and play another set!  So back up the stairs under the wild sky where you could see your breath like a ghost and back to the bar where our instruments and the rest of the the crowd waited.

After a few songs, Vince and his merry band of musical pirates hijacked the stage with axes in hand and we surrendered the microphones as they sang “Stir it Up – Little Ragbirds – Stir it Up”  and we played along.

After they left, we started Tarantella.  I was singing and playing the slow sweet intro when the bald guy came right up to me and stood staring with murderous eyes.  Without losing a beat and while still singing I kicked him in the thigh to let him know to back off.  He didn’t, so TJ took the cue and (again, while still playing) told him with a growl to get out of here.  He said “You’re not big enough to get me out of here” which enraged my brother and I stopped the song, saying into the microphone “We are not playing another note until this guy is out of here!”  The room was stunned silent.  Nobody moved, including the bad man.  “O.K. then, that’s it!” I said and unplugged my violin.  “Noooo!” the crowd shouted “We want The Ragbirds, not this guy!!”

It took the will of the entire peaceful hippie crowd to get him slowly out the door and fortunately it didn’t come to blows.  When the door closed behind him the crowd cheered and I plugged back in and we kicked back into the song.  Within moments the room was healed and joy returned.

After the show, Vince Herman invited us back to his house to stay the night.  When we arrived, he was singing along with Fergie’s “My Humps” and dancing on the coffee table.  Shortly after that everyone was singing along to “Rocky Mountain High” as the drum set was being carried up from the basement to the middle of the kitchen and soon everyone had an instrument in hand.  The music began amidst the laughter.  At some point, Vince grabbed a watermelon off the kitchen counter and spiked it on the high-hat stand – juice pouring out everywhere as Randy splashed his drumsticks in it, mystified. Later Vince was anointing each of our foreheads with a jar of raspberry jelly.

I quietly slipped away to gargle and get some sleep.  Vince continued to sing songs, sad and crude, with his giant voice until eventually the house was quiet.  In the morning, remarkably, he was awake before us, cooking hash browns and biscuits with gravy- “Welcome to the rock and roll bed and breakfast!” he said, cheerful as ever.

1979 miles since South Dakota and 2000 more to go before we see home. . .

(continued in “2000 miles till the orange sky of home”)